On BWC anniversary, U.N. leader urges vigilance, adaptation

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon | Courtesy of the United Nations
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged continued vigilance and scientific adaptation on the 40th anniversary of the implementation of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) on Thursday.

Ki-moon said that in the four decades of the BWC's existence, progress has been made in eliminating this category of weapons of mass destruction.

With a review conference coming in 2016, Ki-moon said that the time is now to consider the steps needed to reconcile the BWC with scientific and technological advancements. Ki-moon also called out nations that have not signed the convention. Currently, 173 nations have signed and agreed to the BWC. Israel, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan are among 23 governments that have not signed the convention.

Outbreaks of diseases such as Ebola and other related pathogens highlight the threat that biological weapons  pose, but Ki-moon said he sees hope in the way the international community has responded.

"The Ebola outbreak in West Africa demonstrates the damage which diseases can inflict, damage which could increase massively were such diseases deliberately misused as weapons," Ki-moon said. "On the other hand, the outbreak also demonstrates the commitment of the international community to respond to such threats, whether natural or deliberate. It also shows the vital role of science in creating better defenses. As we witness ever more remarkable breakthroughs in the life sciences, it is incumbent on us to ensure that such advances are used responsibly."